Wheathampstead hit hardest in school places lottery

St Albans City & District Council

St Albans City & District Council - Credit: Archant

Monday brought misery for the parents of 96 children across the district who failed to get a place at any of their favoured secondary schools for September.

In St Albans the percentage of pupils who secured an offer at one of their four chosen schools dropped from last year, coming in at 94.5 per cent, which placed the district slightly below the county average.

While in total 1,340 youngsters were successfully admitted to their top choice, the highest proportion of children left without an offer at any of their preferred schools came from those living in the district’s villages.

Figures released this week show Wheathampstead was at the bottom of the table with 20 per cent of pupils being rejected from all of their four options, followed by 8.4 per cent of applicants in London Colney.

One frustrated parent from Wheathampstead, whose son missed out on a place at the schools they had selected in Harpenden or Sandringham, said: “We never imagined we would not get any of our four choices. Even our fourth choice would have been acceptable but to not get any of them is quite upsetting.

“It seems to me that Wheathampstead has been harshly picked on. It doesn’t seem fair to me.”

He continued: “My son is going to go to one of those schools and I will fight it to the end.”

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Elsewhere, Harpenden fared better than in previous years with less than one per cent of 11-year-olds failing to win one of their four choices.

David Cairns, chair of local campaign group Right School Right Place, said: “Allocations are always an anxious time for parents, and it is good to see all round improvements.

“However, it is clear that the area suffering from lack of places are the villages around Harpenden, particularly Wheathampstead, Kimpton and the Waldens.

“It is extremely disappointing that Herts County Council (HCC) apparently choose to ignore this aspect in their planning despite the clear evidence of their own figures.”

Applicants who have not been given their first preference will automatically be placed on a continuing interest list for any Herts school named higher on their application form than the one offered.

Offers must be accepted by March 17 and the deadline to submit an appeal is 4pm on April 2.

Chris Hayward, HCC’s executive member for enterprise, education and skills, said: “Moving on to secondary school is an important step and we work extremely hard to make the applications and allocation process smooth and straightforward.

“We want to ensure that as many children as possible get a place at one of their ranked schools.”